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3 subtle sins to warn your kids about

And why it matters when wrestling with sexual temptation

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May 19, 2021

Rob was heading off to college, and he planned to room with a high school friend, Jack. But one phone call threatened those plans. As Rob drove home from youth group one Wednesday evening, his phone began to vibrate. He looked down to see that it was Jack, and he immediately thought that was odd. Jack sent regular texts, but he wasn’t much for long conversations. So, as soon as Rob pulled into the driveway, he called his friend back. The voice on the other end of the line shook. Jack had called to confess he’d been hanging with a number of gay friends. He was struggling with same-sex attraction and even same-sex sexual intimacy. He’d called Rob out of respect. Jack wanted Rob to know before they roomed together.

Rob had grown up in a conservative family and community. For that matter, he’d grown up in a conservative part of the country. Jack’s voice shook for a good reason; he knew this was a risk. Frankly, the confession shocked Rob. Repulsed, he took a posture of judgment. Rob was polite on the phone, but he didn’t go room with Jack as they’d planned. And when the two young men got to school, Rob avoided his struggling friend. The sad irony of that reaction was that Rob’s lust and sexual sin was equally disordered. His pattern of desire was different, which somehow made his sin seem more excusable, but his depravity was no less.

The Bible tells us that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). Fornication, adultery, homosexual behavior (same-sex sexual and romantic intimacy), and active transgender expressions such as cross-dressing and gender re-assignment are all sinful results of the fall (Matt. 15:19; 1 Cor. 6:9–19). God calls all Christians to repent from such actions by turning away from them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Homosexual lust, sometimes called same-sex attraction, and gender identity confusion are disordered desires, and they are also a result of the fall (James 1:13–15). God calls Christians to repent from evil desires by walking in confession (1 John 1:9) even though such desires may persist throughout a believer’s life.1See the excellent explanation of this reality in statements 4 and 5 of the “Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality to the Forty-Eighth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America,” https://pcaga.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/AIC-Report- to-48th-GA-5-28-20-1.pdf.

The short epistle of Jude warns against those who excuse all such immorality. Jude is a loving, spiritual father. He wants what is best for each member of God’s church. He begins his letter with regret, saying that he’d wanted to write and encourage the beloved with good news about their shared salvation. But instead, he felt compelled to warn them to fight against false teaching (Jude 3). As parents, we must be willing to speak to our children in the same way. Even when it’s awkward or difficult, our kids need warnings and encouragement to stand against sinful temptation and the world’s lies.

Jude 4 summarizes the heart of his warning:

For certain individuals, whose condemnation was written about long ago, have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

We must see what Jude is not saying here. He’s not condemning everyone who has disordered desires — or who commits sexual sin — to hell. In fact, Jude’s letter ends with hope for those entangled with lust (Jude 22–23). Instead, Jude rebukes those who excuse sin and justify them- selves (just as Rob did with his potential roommate). False teaching and immorality aren’t just out there in the world. Jude says they’re inside the church. Sin is a disease that’s inside each one of us.

Three types of false voices 

Jude warns against three types of false voices. Let’s look at each one and put ourselves under the microscope. Do we see these tendencies in ourselves or our kids? If so, we must heed Jude’s warnings and fight for our kids’ faith by speaking his words of warning to them as well. 

First, beware of discontentment. When we’re discontent, we fail to believe that what God has given us is enough. Contentment is not circumstantial. It’s theological. Any time we give in to sexual immorality or a desire to define our identity on our own apart from God’s design, we’re demonstrating a lack of happiness and satisfaction in God. Our desires are out of order, that is to say, our strong affections for self, sex, or power are stronger than our affections for God and his ways. It does not matter whether lustful desires are heterosexual or homosexual in nature, choosing to follow strong, competing sinful tendencies demonstrates our failure to delight first in God. 

Allowing a discontented heart to reign within us without confessing this as sin is dangerous. God rescued Israel from slavery and oppression in Egypt. They were given a great salvation, but they grumbled and complained in the desert. As a result, a whole generation died in the wilderness (Jude 5). Whether it’s through his examples of the fallen angels or the perverse people of Sodom (Jude 6–7), Jude shows us a pattern: discontent leads to destruction.

From an early age, kids need to work through the disappointment of not getting what they want. When a child can’t have another piece of chocolate before bed, it’s an opportunity for them to learn that their parent knows best. Help your kids learn to find satisfaction in what they’ve already received. And model for your kids what it looks like to bring your wants and desires to the Lord in prayer (Matt. 7:7–12). Don’t be afraid to pray with them for good desires you know you might not get. Then show them what it looks like to choose satisfaction in God’s answers and obedience to him whatever comes. The secret of contentment lies in depending on Christ for strength even when we are weak (Phil. 4:12–13).

Second, stop making excuses. Jude’s opponents claim they don’t have to obey God’s law, because, according to Jewish custom, it was mediated by angels (Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2)2See other Jewish sources in Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 58. and not given directly by God himself. Jude sees this argument for what it is: an excuse (Jude 8). God’s Word is clear. They just don’t want to obey it.

We still make excuses today. The Bible is plain. Same-sex sexual lust and intimacy is sinful (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). However, some say this is harsh and would openly affirm same-sex sexual relationships even while they claim to follow the Scriptures. When read- ing a clear verse like Leviticus 18:22, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable,” they make excuses: “Old Testament law doesn’t apply today. It came from Moses, not Jesus.” But that is the same tune Jude’s opponents played.3Kevin DeYoung carefully reviews arguments like these and gives careful biblical responses in his book What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

Help your kids see the world’s excuse-making for what it is. And more importantly, help them see when they are tempted to excuse their own sin. When we make excuses, we attempt to lessen the blame or guilt we’re due for our immoral behavior and desires. Rob, in my story above, may have known from youth group what the Bible taught about homosexuality. The trouble was he’d excused his own lusts.

I can still remember when I first confessed my own struggles with lust to a friend in seminary. He asked me, “Have you practiced regular confession?” And he quoted 1 John 1:7 to me: “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” I thought to myself, “Does God really mean that?” All the excuses rolled through my head. My pathway to repentance was to admit my guilt and submit to God’s authority.

Still, I have regrets. There have been times when my own hypocrisy has crippled efforts to genuinely care for others. One writer describes how this is a common problem in the church:

Many gay people sense a double standard when Christian leaders routinely (and loudly) denounce same-gender sex while quietly ignoring morally lax attitudes toward other areas of sexual ethics. In an era when pornography and serial monogamy are both common occurrences, some gay people . . . feel hurt, mis- understood, and judged when Christian leaders harp instead on the evils of the “gay agenda.”4Nate Collins, All but Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 9.

We must stop having a different standard for others than we do for ourselves. Only awareness and honesty about our own sin will empower us to speak the truth with credibility to our gay, lesbian, and transgender neighbors.

Finally, beware of sin’s empty promises. Jude says the false teachers came in like a thundercloud but never brought rain; like a dead, hollow tree that never bore fruit; like a wandering star, no use for navigation (Jude 13). Here’s the thing about sin: it talks a good game, and it can be fun in the moment, but the promises are empty.

Our culture glamorizes relational happiness. Young girls grow up on Disney love stories, believing marriage is a fairy tale of unending personal intimacy. Young men fantasize about an indulgent honeymoon. As parents, we want relational joy for our kids too. We all want the glory of fulfillment and love. If fulfillment is the goal, it can be tempting for families to accept their child’s gender transition or their desire to pursue a romantic same-sex relationship without any qualification. Some parents feel that if they don’t affirm their child’s desires and support a same-sex partnership or gender transition, they’ll be robbing their child of a life of joy.

But true wholeness isn’t found in temporal relationships. It’s found in Christ. Christ doesn’t guarantee that besetting conditions will be resolved simply because of faith. Rather, living as a Christian in a broken world sometimes means persistently battling with desires that are contrary to God’s plan. But we do not do so without hope of reward or final healing (Luke 18:29–30). 

Jude tells us the way broken people must fight the good fight of faith: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 21). We remember God’s love and wait on Jesus. On the last day, we’ll see that he is better than what we long for here.

*For a more in-depth treatment on teaching your children about sexuality, grab this e-book, A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: Helping Kids Navigate a Confusing Culture.

Jared Kennedy

Jared is the husband of Megan and father to Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. After serving fifteen years on staff at local churches, Jared now serves as a freelance editor, as the Managing Editor of Gospel-Centered Family, as a Children’s and Family Ministry Strategist for the Sojourn Network, and as an … Read More